This was one of those projects that snuck into my queue, leapfrogged over the others and wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am was in my wardrobe before you could blink. Well, sort of. I have visitors coming to stay and a couple of small deadlines, so I decided to start batch-cutting projects so I could keep the kitchen area clear (where I do my cutting) for more than 2 days at a time. I’ve been focusing on a spring/summer wardrobe plan, as yet unblogged, that features a number of pairs of trousers and skirts as I am really lacking those in my me-made collection. I hadn’t, however, accounted for any wide-legged trousers in my plans and when the warm weather hit and I started to see them appearing on Instagram, I decided it might be an idea to add some.
I considered a number of patterns: Megan Nielsen’s Flint trousers, Helen’s Closet’s Winslows and the True Bias Emersons among them. But when I saw a few pairs looking just the ticket on my sewing buddies Melizza (@melizzamakes) and Maralisa (@mablu_123), as well as discovering that the Named Ninni culottes were designed for a knit, I knew that these were the ones for me. Being knit, I knew they’d be fast, need minimal fitting and would be a nice palate-cleanser before I sew up all those wovens I’ve been cutting out.
I was on a little sewing field trip with another sewing buddy – Ana Maria – up to the beautiful town of Port Townsend to visit the new location of District Fabric and quickly spotted a mid-weight rib knit in a gorgeous marled grey that I thought would be a perfect weight for some multi-season culottes and I snapped it up. Named then very kindly announced a 15% sale for an Instagram milestone and the deal was done – it was clearly meant to be!
Do I like them? I need to get used to them for sure. My husband is not a fan, and, please, let me assure you that he is a mild-mannered man who is usually very positive about everything I make (safer for him that way too). But there are a few items he answered the old “so whaddya think?” question with a moment’s hesitation, quick eye dart to check I’m not carrying a kitchen knife, and then something along the lines of “Well, to be honest they’re not really my thing”… and these are one of them.
The thing is – I do know what he means. These babies are WIDE. I was actually laughing during construction when I held them up before the elastic waistband went in – I think I could have fit two of me in there! I do honestly think I could go down a couple of sizes next time. I took the waist in a lot and the crotch is very low – and I usually need to add to the crotch curve. Not in this case by a long shot! One of the nice things about these, though, is that the ease is so generous that you can make them up in a woven too and plenty of people have – check out the #ninniculottes hashtag on Instagram to see lots of examples.
The pattern is very straightforward – two pieces for the front and back, plus a waistband and the pockets. I had a couple of small issues with construction. I mean, there’s not that much to it and it works, but I didn’t personally care for the way the pockets are constructed. Named has you sew up the side seams, leaving holes for the pockets and then sew in the pocket bags one at a time, before joining the pairs together to form the bag itself. Almost every other inseam pocket construction has you sew the pocket bags to the seams first and then the side seam and bag is formed at the same time with one large stitch line.
My knit fabric had a bit of bulk to it and I felt that had I constructed in the normal way I would have been able to do something about it. I also just found it fiddly and unnecessary to do the work inside a pocket hole, but perhaps I’m in the minority as I haven’t seen anyone else mention it.
Otherwise I think my main problem came from the fact that I used a ribbed knit. It’s a lovely weight – perhaps even more of an autumn/winter weight than a summer culotte weight, but because it’s a rib knit it stretccchheesss really easily. When I came to sew the waistband on, the body was way bigger than the waistband and because of the interfacing on the waistband I couldn’t even stretch it to match up. Luckily, the gathered nature of these culottes means that my resulting gathers and puckers are hidden, but it was a bit annoying. Again, nobody else appears to have had this issue, so I think in this case I stretched the fabric a bit.
You can see how prone it is to stretching, actually, by the wavy hems. I’m fairly sure they will right themselves after a wash, but the coverstitch did wave them up a bit to my annoyance. (Edit: it’s now Dec 2019 and I can tell you that after a few washes, the waviness disappeared completely! Whew.)
Lest this sound like a litany of complaints, be assured that I do like them. They are very comfortable, very adjustable and fast to sew to cut out and sew. The whole project including sticking pdfs can definitely be done in a day, should you be so inclined, and results in a very wearable pair of culottes.
Like I said at the top of this post, though, I do need to get used to them. They’re not immensely flattering from all angles or with my top tucked in (I think there is too much width at the waistband) and I do need to put thought into what I wear with them. I definitely fancy making a more streamlined pair from a woven with a different length. Oh yes, the length. Named Patterns are drafted for a 5’8″ lady and I’m around 5’6″. With the hem allowance I should have been chopping off 3.5″ and perhaps more since my legs are proportionally shorter than my body. I spent quite a bit of time looking at the length, however, and decided to go with something longer for these, hemming about 1.5″. Something about the super-drape of this knit made me think they would look a little strange at the usual shorter culottes length. I’m game to try with another pair though!
All in all – there is no way a garment this comfy and easy to pull on isn’t going to get a lot of wear-time. I’m not sure they’re completely “me”, but I’m willing to let them grow on me (not literally).